By Todd Hummel
For The Daily Item
MILTON -- Confidence is a funny thing in sports, especially in baseball.
On paper, despite a league loss to Mifflinburg on Tuesday, Milton had every reason to think Wednesday afternoon's Heartland Athletic Conference-cross over game with Warrior Run would get them on track.
The Defenders had dropped six games in a row since a 2-0 start and had only played their first seven-inning game in that stretch in a nine-run loss to Hughesville on Tuesday.
But a funny thing happened; Warrior Run took an early lead and gained confidence, while Milton looked like the team that was struggling.
So when the Black Panthers rallied to tie the game in the fifth inning, the Defenders were able to scratch together two runs in their next at-bat to take the nonleague contest 6-4 and snap that six-game slide.
"It's a real big win (for us)," Warrior Run coach Shane Keister said. "You play some defense behind your pitcher, you get some confidence."
The game looked to be going according to script after the Defenders went in order in the first inning on just four pitches, while Milton took advantage of a Warrior Run error and a Jordon Bordner RBI single to take a 1-0 lead.
"I wasn't real pleased with the four-pitch first inning," Keister said. "They had some good approaches (after the first innings) and lay off the curveball and waited for fastball."
However, Warrior Run pitcher Hunter Raup escaped a bases-loaded loaded jam in the first inning and his teammates were able to give him a 3-1 lead in its next two at bats.
Hunter Stroup led off the second with a double and later came around to score on a double-play grounder. A Johnny LaBarron single and a Milton error followed by a two-run single by Stroup led to two runs in the third.
Milton got a run back in the bottom of the third when Chad Diggan doubled and scored on a Bordner single.
The bottom of the Warrior Run (3-6) order got the Defenders an insurance run in the fourth. Jared Bender singled and stole second. Bender came around to score on No. 9 hitter Lloyd Minium's single.
The Defenders left the bases loaded in the top of the fifth and it looked like it would come back to haunt them in Milton's at-bat in the bottom of the inning. Artley walked and an error put runners on second and third with no outs. Damien Moyer followed with an RBI single. Bordner added his third RBI single in as many at-bats to tie the game at 4-4.
Raup got out of the jam without allowing the Black Panthers (4-3) to take the lead thanks to a fielder's choice and two groundouts.
"The breaks are not going our way. We can't come up with the clutch hit when we need it and it seems like the other teams are getting those clutch hits," Milton coach Chace Phillips said. "That's the way this game goes sometimes. We're trying not get too down on ourselves, but it takes its toll for sure."
The Defenders took the lead right back with two runs in the top of the sixth. Raup singled to open the inning. After a sacrifice, a wild pitch and a throwing error on a strikeout led to a run. Then another wild pitch on a strikeout later in the inning gave Warrior Run a 6-4 lead.
Raup almost got the hook in the bottom of the sixth when he walked the lead off hitter, but a double-play ground out kept him in the game. Raup finished off his complete game, allowing just a two-hit walk in the seventh before getting a fly out to end the game. He finished with five strikeouts and five walks.